verb (used with object), dabbed, dab·bing.

verb (used without object), dabbed, dab·bing.

to strike lightly; make a dab; pat: She dabbed at the stain on her dress.
to consume cannabis by inhaling the vapor of heated cannabis extract oil. She dabs for a more intense high.


Origin of dab

1250–1300; Middle English dabben; compare Norwegian dabbe “to shuffle along, walk slowly,” German tappen “to feel along, grope”

Synonyms for dab

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for dabbed

Contemporary Examples of dabbed

Historical Examples of dabbed

  • She dabbed her handkerchief at her eyes, muttered: "My Heavens, what a fool!"

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • I,' he took out his pocket-handkerchief again and dabbed his face. '

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Here she dabbed her sister's forehead, and blew upon it a little.

    Little Dorrit

    Charles Dickens

  • Marilou dabbed the moisture from her forehead with the hem of her dress.

  • His lordship frowned, and dabbed his lips with a handkerchief.

    Captain Blood

    Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for dabbed


abbreviation for

digital audio broadcasting



verb dabs, dabbing or dabbed

to touch lightly and quickly
(tr) to daub with short tapping strokesto dab the wall with paint
(tr) to apply (paint, cream, etc) with short tapping strokes


a small amount, esp of something soft or moista dab of ink
a small light stroke or tap, as with the hand
(often plural) mainly British a slang word for fingerprint

Word Origin for dab

C14: of imitative origin




a small common European brown flatfish, Limanda limanda, covered with rough toothed scales: family Pleuronectidae: a food fish
(often plural) any of various other small flatfish, esp floundersCompare sand dab
Also called: patiki a sand flounder, Rhombosolea plebia, common around New Zealand's South Island

Word Origin for dab

C15: from Anglo-French dabbe, of uncertain origin




British informal See dab hand

Word Origin for dab

C17: perhaps from dab 1 (vb)
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for dabbed



c.1300, dabben "to strike," of unknown origin, perhaps imitative. Modern sense of "strike with a slight, quick pressure" developed by mid-16c., influenced by French dauber (see daub). Related: Dabbed; dabbing. As a noun from c.1300, "heavy blow with a weapon." Dab hand is British slang, 1828, from dab "expert" (1690s), said to be school slang, of unknown origin, perhaps from dab in the "strike lightly" sense.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper